Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Blind Pig 100 Recap

Here are a few notes I've managed to write up regarding my recent run of the Blind Pig 100 in Croft State Park, SC. It is an unedited first draft.

I was pleased with my choice to race the inaugural Blind Pig 100 Mile Ultramarathon as soon as Stephanie and I pulled into the race headquarters on Friday night. The Croft State Park Campground served as race headquarters containing the start/finish line. The course is a nine mile loop I would run eleven times on Saturday, (after a one mile out and back to account the full 100 miles). The tall pines in the campground provided a relaxing atmosphere and the small campground offered a community centered vibe to the event.

I was pretty confident the month before the race allowing recovery in lieu of forcing junk miles. I made sure to get in high quality work on days I felt like it, and on days I felt bad I just took it easy. In turn, I was rested and ready to go run 100 miles on Saturday. Heading to the starting line on Saturday morning I realized my Garmin was dead. Apparently during preparations the night before when I checked to see if I had a full charge I didn't turn it back off. Oops. Oh well. This was now a variable I couldn't control, so I didn't worry about it. I needed to focus on what I could control, and let the things I couldn't control take care of themselves.

Luckily, I packed a spare Garmin, and although it was an older model I would get me through half of the race. (My new model has a battery life that will last the whole duration of the run). Regardless, The most important task of the Garmin falls on regulating heart rate the first half of the race, keeping the pace down, and this would serve that purpose.

I was in heaven with the "pre-race" meeting. I hate those lengthy mandatory meetings with tons of useless info, guest speakers, blah blah blah. The race director of the Blind Pig obviously gets this. There was no meeting the night before the race. The "pre-race" meeting was 5 minutes before the start of the race. AWESOME.

The starting pace was a bit ridiculous, so I didn't concern myself with the pace of other runners in front as it was apparent I would reel them in shortly. After the one mile out and back I was probably somewhere near the tail end of the herd, yet by the end of the second lap of eleven I'm pretty sure I was already in second place. Shuffling along at the same pace insures I don't burn through precious glycogen stores. These folks who went out and lit up that first lap surely paid for it at the tail end...I'm guessing it added about 30% to their overall time. Discipline and patience...

The heat and sun had no problem cutting through the leafless trees. The loop was almost all singletrack. There were two aid station on the course. One at the start/finish line and another a few miles into the loop. This second aid station was only several miles into the loop and so it made for a long trip around to finish the loop. The easiest half of the loop was fortunately after this second aid station which helped pass the time. 

The course was hilly and incredibly deceptive. The roots and rocks collectively added to fatigue over the course of the day, and the hills seemed to grow larger and larger as the sun beat down on us. I have a penchant for racing a 100 on the first hot day of the year, in which the mid-80's feels like the upper 90's due to no heat training. On paper this course looks fast, and in the right weather, it could be, but not this year. The heat was a large hurdle to overcome. 

I plugged away as effortlessly as possible and made good progress. I kept somewhat even splits and kept control well of the variables I had power over. When I would get negative, I would back off the pace and remind myself that I was in control, not the race. I stayed positive and whenever I got bogged down, I backed off instead of pushing harder. 

In a 50 mile race, its fine to push harder, dig deeper into the pain cave, but midway through a 100 mile run you can't do this. Its too long. You have to constantly readjust, refocus, stay comfortable, stay happy. 100's are almost boring in this regard. It's an exercise in patience and discipline the first half. Then the second half is an exercise in pushing yourself to slog through the miles with dead legs and no energy. Fun right?!

I didn't concern myself with pace or time. I know this is futile. You can only do what you can do. Ambiguous right? Redundant right? But True. You can't get wrapped in dreams of a PR and a time goal if you want to run the best race possible. You have to focus on even pacing for that day.

Nearing the half way point at mile 50, I was on pace for a 16 hour finish. The half-way point however, occurred at 4:00 PM, the hottest part of the day and the heat had yet to take its full effects. Upon signing up, I was hoping this race could potentially yield a new personal record. I've been trying to beat my time from the 2012 Umstead of 15:27 for over a year now. It'll happen eventually, but it is going to have to be a special day in which the triad of temperatures, course conditions, and fitness align perfectly. 

After the 50 split, I had yet to wear my iPod and was really focusing on each lap, maintaining good form. I was wholly focused on the course and didn't want distractions.

I was experimenting with new nutrition in the form of Ensure. I was chugging a 250 calorie bottle each lap at the start/finish and would eat Clif gels and Clif Bloks while out on the course. My stomach was solid and even in the heat no nausea or gastric issues presented. I decided to ride this train until something drastic happened, although it never did. I kept the exact same intake the entire day with no issues. Knock on wood, this makes 2 full years of zero nausea or diarrhea during a 100 miler. 

Near mile 75 I began to fall apart mentally and grow fatigued. It was about 9:00 pm and this is my "usual bedtime". Yeah, I'm an early bird. 

I was tempted to drop down upon completion of this ninth lap. I was still in second place overall and upon finishing the lap I was at mile 82. This race also had a simultaneous 100K option, (62 miles), and my 100K split was fast enough that I would have won the 100K had I decided to bail on the 100 mile finish and take the 100K. 

I didn't have a pacer to get me through the tough patch, and the thoughts of being out on the course for another 6 hours seemed overwhelming, but I knew thinking about the long night ahead spelled complete disaster if I hoped to finish. In a 100 mile run you can ONLY think about the immediate goals. Baby steps. Get one more lap done. Get to the next aid station. With any big goal, you can only think in incremental tasks, otherwise the daunting feat ahead can overwhelm the pursuant. 

I kept thinking about my running clients... What kind of example was I setting if I dropped? I dropped at mile 70 in the Pinhoti 100 in 2012 and vowed to never do it again. I chumped out and saved myself from 5 hours of absolute physical and mental agony and in turn have spent years regretting my DNF there. It was a valuable lesson and I vowed to never quit a race again realizing how terrible it felt to quit.

During the climax of torture 75 miles into a 100 mile run, you don't care anymore. You can legitimately justify quitting. It all becomes so obvious. However, having lived through the ramifications of retrospective self punishment, I know the only choice is to forge on and suffer through the mental and physical annihilation because it will all be over in a few hours and the guilt of quitting lasts on forever. 

After finishing lap 9 at mile 82 I told my crew, Stephanie, and I friend I often race with Jonathan Allen that I was feeling rough. My laps previously were all under three hours and lap 9 was almost 3 hours! I was falling apart. I had a great season and this was my seventh race in as many months. I could drop down and win the 100K and I was OK with it all. I didn't want to quit but I was fried. They promptly said this was not an option and I didn't fight. I knew sitting down would be the death of me, and so with haste I immediately exited the start/finish line and decided to fight on, holding on to second place in the 100 miler.

I was emblazoned with passion heading out on lap ten of eleven. I knew that I would finally complete a 100 mile run without a pacer. In all my other runs I've used a pacer who picks me up the last half or quarter of the race and I can just zone out and rely on them to get me through it. I didn't have a pacer at Pinhoti and I quit. My tenth lap wrapped up very quickly. I had another high moment and Stephanie was shocked to see me finish the lap in under two hours coming through the Aid at the Start/Finish with a "Whoop Whooop!". Only one lap to go! 

I paid for the fast pace of the tenth lap during the first half of my final lap but I recovered for a good final few miles. 

I finished in 2nd overall, but the placement was irrelevant to me. I was proud to stick it out and finish and win mentally. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Building to a peak- Spring 100

The year has gone well. The general theme is experience taking over raw force. Bad conditions have yielded the worst conditions I've ever seen at LLTH 50k and LBL 50Mi this year.

For the snow at LLTH I just hung out and ran slow until the return which I knew would be packed powder, a better running surface, finishing strong I had an OK day but could have done better I guess.

I had a good run at LBL and fully believe in good conditions I was primed for a PR and would have ran a 6:20 but the snow created the most mud and standing water I've raced in. It was standing water on the entire course. I went out fast and was blown when the conditions deteriorated more than I expected. I got passed in the final few miles which pissed me off, since I was fried from not expecting the standing water which slowed me down...The first lap was fast as the snow was frozen over providing a fast yet slippery surface. I'd grade the race a B I guess...I don't know.

I've been running good mileage getting in some 100 mile weeks and focusing on quality with a LOT of training runs in the 16-22 mile range at 6:30-7:00 pace which is good for me.

I'm trying to balance recovery with maintenance for my last race of the season, The Blind Pig 100 which should be fast in good conditions. It's a singeltrack loop with not much climbing.

Until then...  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Pistol 100 mile: Bottle-Rocket and the Deathly Hollows

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Harry, Hermione and Ron have to flee and hide as they search for the last remaining tools, (horcruxes), needed to kill Voldemort. My Pistol 100 mile run was basically a reenactment of this Harry Potter novel... well, the boring part at least where Harry and Hermione bumble around for seemingly endless eons trying to figure out where the horcruxes can be found. JK Rowling, the author, really does a great job getting the readers to feel the boredom and stir-crazy-cabin-fever that Harry and Hermione must have experienced as they fumbled around endlessly in the middle of nowhere, knowing that an epic battle was awaiting them. 

Likewise, a hundred mile run is a waiting game amid an epic backdrop. Pure boredom is required for success to beat the Death Eaters, er...I mean... negative thinking, that can accompany a run of this length- a huge task. So Stephanie, (Hermione), Matt, (Ron), and I had our work cut out for us.   

I've often heard, "Hundreds are all mental." when people discuss the differences between a one hundred mile ultramarathon and every other distance. In some regards, this is true. A great 50 mile ultra marathon in the mountains requires pure physical brutality, muscle, strength, and toughness to run at the top. A mountain 50 can be raw and carnal. The mind must push the body to its threshold or breaking point, but the body's responsiveness is the limiter. 

A 100 mile ultramarathon is different. To run a beautifully crafted 100 in which one maximizes their potential, they must run with restraint, and mentally this is very challenging. The mind must deal with the most inconceivable concept of running non-stop for 100 miles. The body will inevitably falter, and the only thing that will get you through is mental strength. You won't want to run anymore at some point, but you must. 

Going into The Pistol 100 mi, not only was my body fatigued from a strong run at the Lookout Mountain 50 miler only three weeks prior, but I had managed to catch a nasty virus only a few days prior to The Pistol in my weakened state. Mentally I was beat down as well. I felt a cloud of negative energy, (argh...those damn Death Eaters again), and I swooned under the darkness. I knew I had to find a positive vibe somewhere in this sick, drained body and fatigued mind. (If I only had a wand). I had to be completely lost in the moment while running The Pistol 100 mi,or I was sure to buckle under the pressure of the distance as it weighed on my energy levels.

The first step to finding the light was calling in to work sick on Thursday before the race. My head was pounding and the day before I slept nearly 20 hours, my whole body aching. I knew I needed another day as I was under the weather and I'd been seeing record numbers of patients in my nursing job. I've never called in sick in my many years and this was a first, but it was warranted given my extreme lack of energy. 

Mentally I took the load off. I allowed rest and recovery mentally, as well as physical. I decompressed which is the heart of success for me at the 100 distance. The first step of many steps en route to another 100 mile buckle. 

Thursday afternoon, a talk with my pacer, local runner stud Matt Hoyes was another step in the right direction. Seeing his enthusiasm to not only race the 50K distance, but then come back to pace me got me stoked. Mentally I began to free myself from my surroundings and focus solely on the run ahead, tunnel vision with a buckle at the end of the light. 

I ran the race cautiously in the opening miles. Ice formed on my beard in the sub twenty degree temps and I reeled in my pace without much desire to go any faster. I ran the first two of nine laps with longtime friend Brian Pickett who was also looking to stay strong mentally throughout the day. Brian constantly edged his way about three steps ahead of me. I was disciplined to not follow suit, and warned him it was a long day and to take it easy in the opening laps. He would then come back shoulder to shoulder as we laughed about his desire to pick up the pace. Brian is crazy strong and smart pacing would pay off in the end.  

My splits the first several laps were dead even. I was running like clockwork, and my splits were right where I wanted them. I wasn't focused on a goal time, I was solely focused on the moment, and maintaining a constant pace throughout the day until lap nine of nine was complete.

It was entertaining watching the 50K unfold at marathon speeds as we slogged along at a snail-like 100 mile pace. Matt looked strong as ever, fresh off a 2:39 road marathon and yet another win at Otter Creek trail marathon. I couldn't fathom racing a 50K that day...especially at Matt's pace. He finished in just over've got to be kidding me. Beast- scoring another podium.

Midway through lap 3 around the 25 mile mark Brian finally left me and gained a gap which would lengthen all day. I stayed content plugging along at what I could manage and kept my splits consistent. I wasn't there to race. I was there to get a buckle and finish a 100. (and Maybe kill Voldemort in the process...) 

I ran the race in thirds. After the completion of the third lap, I only envisioned the second third, and vowed to not walk or take a break until the completion of the sixth lap, at mile 66.6. Ironically, hell must have frozen over as it got very cold again at this point.

Adding to the challenge mentally is that the race has multiple distances...runners can "drop" down and quit and still be awarded their 50K or 100K finish given they complete that distance. In the Harry Potter analogy I guess this is like when Harry has the chance to just be evil, and opts for honor knowing what in the end is right and just. He follows his true calling and duty, what he set out to do, and forges on through increasing odds and challenges.

Stephanie, (Hermione), was flawless in her crewing and contributed to my successful pacing and continuous energy. The lap format made it easy to ensure I ate the same thing throughout the day. I forced nutrition every twenty to thirty minutes like clockwork. Fuel of choice was gels mostly and occasional Clif Bloks, with caffeinated gels thrown in the last half of the race. I knew in my physical condition that failing to eat would be my death, and so regardless of nausea, I ate on schedule.

Starting at lap 5, I thought I'd hold off on picking up the iPod but Stephanie handed it off to me and DAMN. It blew my mind... hearing music was like that scene in The Wizard of Oz where the world turns to color from black and white. I immediately vowed to myself that I would stray strong and after completion of the second third I would run though lap 7 before potentially taking a break for several minutes... ah, constant mental games to continue. Starting at lap 8 was when my pacer would pick me up, so it was a logical choice.

Mentally there were some ups and downs, but I stayed on task and didn't walk. I just zoned out for the lows and ignored my thoughts, and I rode the highs for all they were worth when they presented themselves. My splits grew longer each lap but I was golden as long as I continued to run at any pace, and NOT walk.

I kept hitting the reset button on lap 7 by telling myself, "OK- this is last lap, and then all I have is a 22 mile run with Hoyes." I can't remember how many times this popped in my head, but it sounded so great, to think that all I had left was a 22.2 mile run with Matt. I wasn't racing, I was just going out for a stroll with my buddy. (It just happened to be at the end of an 80 mile run...)

Matt picked me up a little early as my pace had dwindled a little more, and so he got in a few extra miles. (Yeah, after racing a I said, BEAST) I was surprised how much time we spent chatting. (Yes...once again, just like Harry Potter when Ron shows up at the lake to save Harry...heh heh heh) 

Mentally I was still somewhat coherent and wasn't completely in shambles...Matt was pretty awesome throughout the day, calling and checking on Stephanie to see if she needed anything while crewing, even though he had already run his own race and still had to pace my slow ass through the dark and cold.

I whined a little and grunted and groaned through the closing miles but I never stopped and only sat for a few seconds to put on some tights once it got cold... You know I have to be going slow to rock some tights...I ALWAYS wear shorts. The final lap I picked up some energy and began talking more to Matt, enjoying the experience along the way. 

I crossed the line in just over 18 hours. I was told by the RD I was 4th overall, but I'm pretty sure I finished in 5th overall. I was far from my PR of 15:27 which happened on a harder course, but The Pistol was just about finishing on that given day. I felt it was a victory. The timing screw-ups still haven't been fixed. My official time as of now is 17:41. (but I was 18:06)

I've always been horribly bored in hundreds and prefer the explosive physical brutality of a fifty mile mountain ultra comparatively. The challenge of the boredom which accompanies a hundred has beat me in the past, and I'm determined to rise to the challenge and become stronger at the one hundred mile distance. This run at The Pistol was a step in the right direction. 

Saxx Compression Briefs
Pearl Izumi Fly Shorts
Mountain Hardware Wicked T Shirt
Patagonia Zip Neck 
Mountain Hardware Cohesion Jacket
Salomon Ear Warmer
Smith Optics
Pearl Izumi Road N2 with Superfeet Insoles
Swiftwick Socks

Petzl NAO light / Black Diamond Sprinter
Mountain Hardware Gloves (Powerstretch)



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lookout Mountain 50 Mile Race Report-

I typically have a good month training throughout November. There is a time and place for everything and I typically run strong in December following a rather mediocre November race. This year November held the highest mileage and best quality running I've experienced in six months. Late in summer and fall this year I often put running on the back-burner for family/other commitments. In November however, I had help from my mom/family who watched my daughter a lot. The planets aligned. I was able to prioritize running in a way which still allowed a peaceful and rather stress-free life at home. (Thanks Kara.) Even with her (Kara) leaving town for several work trips I just cut out the extraneous fat from life and focused on Denali and running and work. It was a pretty special month! The stage was set for yet another strong December race.

Last year was the first year in three years I opted to not run the Lookout Mountain 50. Hellgate race director David Horton let me into the infamous Hellgate 66.6 mile run. It was nothing short of epic, battling Grossman in the last miles as we strove to break the old course record. I love the community surrounding the Virginia race scene, but I missed Chattanooga and the traditions I've come to expect from Lookout. Many friends from "the 'Ville" have started running Lookout Mountain and its a fun kickoff to the holidays, eating and running in this trendy mountain town in the southeast.

Rock Creek puts on a huge production, and admittedly they were a HUGE inspiration in my vision of what I wanted to build my race, The Backside Trail Marathon to resemble. 

On race morning this year, temps hovered in the upper thirties and rain poured from above. The conditions couldn't alter my readiness to go run my heart out on these trails I've come to love. The field this year would be the most competitive I've witnessed in my four years running this race. In the opening 3 hours I ran with Jon Allen, a friend whom I first met at the Ultra Race of Champions 100K back in 2011. Jon and I typically run within a place or two of one another and I was excited to swap stories and catch-up with Jon as we passed the miles in the rain and cold.

I was in 4th place at mile 22.5 after the long climb to the top of Lookout Mountain at Covenant College which serves as race headquarters. Even with the rain I was making good time and my energy expenditure was low. I hadn't yet unleashed the fire within and I was ready to do so.

I left Covenant College with Jon Allen and we found our way back onto marked trails- but soon thereafter we saw a runner heading towards us. This wasn't good. I figured he was lost, and so I assured him I was going the right way and instructed him to follow me. More and more runners began to get confused at the direction we should be travelling, and I played the ringleader for the confused lot.

Thirty long minutes later, and over 3 miles wasted, we realized we had been directed onto the wrong trails or somehow ended up on the 10k course which was marked in the same flagging. We had almost looped back to Covenant College completely. 

I had run this course before and the course I was on was very similar to the old course and ran the same powerline, etc. It was incredibly easy to confuse the two, and the fact that the markings were the same was not a great choice. Jon and I are both pretty seasoned trailrunners and this situation was beyond both of us. The majority of the guys and girls in the top 10 were prey to the same fate.

It was demoralizing. Surmounting a deficit to the lead pack of at least 30 minutes seemed impossible. This field was strong and the front runners who had somehow been directed onto the "right" course not only had the advantage of a 30 minute window, but they didn't have 3+ extra miles under their legs. Regardless, I came to play and I wasn't giving up. I had slipped from 4th back to around 30th. 

I lit up the trails and raced with passion and fury. I pushed the out-most limit of what I thought I could hold. I passed probably 10 people within an hour and let the anger fuel my run. 

I got to long branch aid station 10 miles later and saw my crew. I threw my bottle and didn't waste any time stopping to explain. Stephanie was very smart and yelled- "I know EXACTLY what happened!", clarifying I shouldn't waste any more time. I yelled to the volunteers at the aid station that someone MUST be made aware of this course marking debacle since a large chunk of the top 20 had gotten off course or had been directed off course onto a course marked with the same course markings! I'm ALWAYS very grateful to the volunteers and try to show my appreciation by saying thanks, however in passing my yelling probably came off like I being a big asshole. I apologize for that! (...but the race coordinators needed to be aware.)

Coming out of Long Branch I had the advantage of venting to Jeremy who ran behind me. The anger helped push me and fueled my desire to keep passing runners and work my way back up. By the time I finished the Long Branch lolly pop loop I was in 6th place.

I had 13 miles to go, and I knew the competition ahead was fierce. 

I began to feel the effects of my huge effort and became light headed and faint. I started taking in gels more frequently. I pushed harder and embraced the pain. My body responded well to what I asked of it. I only had a half a marathon left. 

Jeremy and I caught the lead female and I had a blast chatting with her. She was from New Hampshire and I liked her immediately as I heard her cheering on runners. We chatted about the White Mountains which was a good distraction and mutual friends from New England like Kevin Tilton. She was crazy strong and I figured we'd be duking it out for the remainder. Luckily I escaped her on a climb. The return route is fun because its an out and back in which you can yell and cheer on runners making their way out to Long Branch. I enjoy doing this and I thought it was cool to hear the lead chick cheering on runners as well. 

In the closing miles I cat-and-moused with another runner, a guy I had yet to meet, but we chatted pleasantly when our tired breath allowed it.  I passed him rather easily on a climb and I thought he was done for, but then a few minutes later he passed me with authority on a flat stretch. This continued for some time. I would run all the climbs and catch him, and then he would take off. 

I wanted to let him go but I told myself to dig harder and fight. Luckily for me, the closing miles became hillier towards the finish and I out-climbed him on the final hill. I dug deep and destroyed myself and lost him by a good enough distance he was out of sight.

I'm assuming we both thought battling for 4th was pointless. 

What I didn't know is that he and I had somehow passed Jessie Davis at an aid station and he and I were actually battling for 3rd place for a podium spot!

I crossed the finish line in third place completing my own "Tour de Lookout Podium" with a win in 2010, a second in 2011, and now a third in 2013. Hahahaha... I would say this was my strongest run there. 

I was elated to do what I thought was impossible after the 30 minute, 3+mile side trip. Many thanks to Stephanie for some great crewing which saved me minutes on the day at aid stations! I owe you this one!

Many congrats to all the Louisville friends who finished this beastly race. The conditions were some of the worst I've ever seen. Rhonda Curry, Andrew Thai, and Rob Putz- I'm impressed.  

Up next is The Pistol 100 mile in January only 3 weeks away followed by another Rock Creek race (if registration opens) the Thunder Rock 100 mile.



Monday, November 4, 2013


The Mountain Masochist Trail Run is one of the most storied races in the history of Ultrarunning. Deep in the mountains surrounding Lynchburg Virginia, this race literally embodies what many ultramarathons aspire to achieve in its course, its community, and its professional commitment to organization. The shoes I raced in over the last several years were even named after this race, The Montrail Mountain Masochist... Yes. This race is that big, and this year brought in national level competition.

Since its inception many of the worlds best mountain and trail runners have challenged themselves on these climbs and descents. Memories have been made and friendships have been forged along this course which crosses the Appalachian Trail several times in its point-to-point traverse from Monroe, Va to Montebello, Va. 

I felt a deep calm and peace overcome me driving into Lynchburg on Friday evening. The colors of fall accented the farms and mountains on windy Virginia backroads and a stellar soundtrack from Greensky Bluegrass, The Avett Brothers, and Punch Brothers complimented the scene. A flood of life changing memories sat in the back of my mind as I entered the Blueridge Mountains- experiences which started in my youth and continued into adulthood. Backpacking and racing in these mountains has become an essential part of who I am and who I have become.

The pre-race dinner is like a reunion among runners. A deep sense of community resides in the Virginia ultrarunning community. Race Director Clark Zealand secures some pretty great swag and door prizes for the runners of these races. Gear from Patagonia and more vendors is a staple.

Race morning came early but I arose without the usual fog which prevails in my mind at the early hours that come with ultramarathon start times. I can only recall one morning in over fifty ultra distance race mornings which I haven't felt groggy. (That morning preceeded my 15:27 Umstead 100 PR- which was one of the top 25 100 mile times of the year) Suffice to say, I'm not an early riser! I like my mornings to start at 7 or 8, and no earlier unless I'm camping. Alas, I thought my good feelings foreshadowed good things to come.

We followed a bus full of runners to the start and the stars overhead shone clearly in the Virginia mountains.

In the opening miles I chatted with friends I hadn't seen in a while. Eric Grossman, (my partner on some epic undertakings as of late such as the Colorado Trail FKT attempt and the Tour De Virginia stage race two years ago) and I quickly commenced to planning our next adventure. I laughed at Grossman's desire to conspire our next masochistic jaunt during the Mountain Masochist race.

Chatting with Brad Hinton for many miles was long overdue. Brad is a great runner whom I don't get to chat with nearly enough. We joked about how there are two types of runners- those who have mortgages and kids and those who don't. Brad and I both suffered the curse for some time of being a bridesmaid and never a bride. We both had a slew of 2nd place finishes and were due for a win! I think we both looked our gift horses in the mouth and would have been ecstatic with 2nd on race day!

The pace felt comfortable in the opening miles and I wanted to push harder but we were in the lead pack and I new there was a long day ahead. Once the real climbs started I held my energy levels steady yet the lead pack slipped away gradually. I found myself just out of tenth place, yet I assumed that I could reel in the inevitable carnage that was sure to be had in the final miles.

The first crew access point is at mile 15. It was light by the first aid station at mile 7. I dropped my headlamp there as planned. I knew I would be dropping a lamp, so I didn't bring my blindingly bright Petzl Nao since I didn't want to risk losing the best headlamp I own. Our Petzl rep from Quest Outdoors gave me this lamp before the Hellgate 100K last winter and I love it! That headlamp was amazing while pacing the Grand Slam this summer! The cheaper headlamp I ended up using was barely adequate for the fire roads and jeep roads most of the race course consisted of. I wish I would have brought the Petzl as I stumbled more than I was expecting.

Guy Love and I ran a lot of miles together in the middle of the race. Guy paced and crewed Eric and I during our Colorado Trail FKT attempt this summer. Guy was a godsend in Colorado by hiking in a tent and sleeping bag during a storm in which I became hypothermic above treeline and our 4x4 couldn't access us to get us below 13,500'. I've never been so happy to share a tent with another dude. We didn't reminisce about our summer adventures. We passed the time chatting about races on our calendar which we were looking forward to, possibly the Rock Creek Thunder Rock 100 in May. I was proud to see Guy push on ahead of me as my legs weren't responding on the climbs.

Mile 22 began the biggest climb of the race. I held pace and begin to pass several runners that had passed me early on. I held a nice smooth pace and didn't push too hard. Although I was way back past 10th place I knew that it was a long day ahead and if I picked up the pace later I could reel in carnage as mentioned... It isn't hard not too stress. I've seen this too many times. Ultras require patience and discipline.

I didn't make the demoralizing surge I had planned on though... I was enjoying myself too much. I can't recall too many times in races in which miles passed by this quickly. I took time to look around and admire these mountains which have shaped me over the years. I really wanted a top three spot at Mountain Masochist but I was living in the moment in the middle of the race. I didn't have that fighting spirit necessary to reach the top 3. I felt I had nothing to prove. I ran my race. I've said many times I wish I could go out for a 50 mile run and just enjoy it, and that's what I was doing.

The miles rolled by effortlessly and I was always surprised how quickly the next aid station arrived. In many races, the miles pass like eons, however today was different, I could have gone 100 miles, the legs had no power, but they had endurance. I was in the moment, holding the exact same pace I had started out running.

I never used my iPod, I just got lost in the mountains. I was shirtless and free and not pressuring myself.

This isn't the most motivational race report for someone to reach their maximal potential I realize, but it's what I needed at the moment. I have experienced wins and podiums, but I'm at a place in my life where running isn't the only part of who I am. I'm not done pushing myself. I'm not done destroying myself to go as fast as possible. But I just did my own thing out there on Saturday. The fire will return sometime soon, I'm sure.

With about 10 miles to go I was in 11th place behind Jordan Whitlock who was suffering after leading for a while and going out hard for the win. I was climbing stronger than he was but he was descending strong. I struck up some conversation and we chatted away a few miles. Jordan thought we were in 9th and 10th, but I was under the impression we were in 10th and 11th.

I didn't battle Jordan for 10th, I let him pull away, and I got back into my zone of freedom, no self imposed restrictions of time or place, just running my own enjoyable jaunt through the hills. This felt good.

I crossed the line in 11th place. The 51 miles with 9200' climbing took me 8 hours and 3 enjoyable minutes.

Sitting around after the race I thanked Clark for a job well done. He defines class act. Clark is a genuinely nice guy who runs a fantastic race.

Eric came up to our hotel room and showered and we killed some post race beers. I was really glad to catch up with he and Robin.

During the awards ceremony my enjoyable time out in the woods had momentarily vacated my mind and I was kicking myself for not being up there with the top 10. I was frustrated with myself, but then I remembered how good I felt and how much I had to do the following week and I relaxed into positive vibes.

The Lookout Mountain 50 Mile is December 14th.

My takeaway points...

In retrospect, my low mileage was probably a culprit to my lacking performance. I suffered a bad sinus infection after a marathon on 9/28 and couldn't run for two weeks. I also tapered for that marathon which means a month of low mileage, since I was fried after a summer full of running.

Luckily I didn't make a surge in the middle of the race like planned. I knew I would blow up if I did. Stephanie's crewing was top notch and saved me time. I luckily have a lot of experience and knew what I needed to do to get in a decent time with minimal training miles under my belt. My stomach was great, nutrition was perfect, and energy was constant throughout on race day. My time and placement were pretty pitiful, but in all truth I had a good race considering the variables.

The month of October, although it held very few miles was a blast at least travelling a lot, getting in a ton of climbing mountains in NH and playing a TON of music.

carb loading pre race! 

Getting in some practice on the ride home, making up solos to Avett Bros. poor poor Stephanie! What a trooper! 

strategy session pre race
I'll try to get some more pics up soon...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mill Race Marathon

Mill Race Marathon was my first race since June, and my first flat road marathon in a year. I had hopes of running under 2:40 but came up long...

I was actually planning on running The North Coast 24 Hour Run the weekend prior and had no plans to run a marathon...After my summer of long endurance, I focused on long timed runs on a one mile crushed track
in hopes to qualify for the USA 24 hour team. I signed up for North Coast but my wife had an event come up at work. To help out around home I decided to abandon North Coast and run the marathon the next weekend. (My wife and daughter accompanied me and we made a weekend of it.)

I think it meant a lot to her that I gave up my hopes of qualifying for the US team at North Coast. It showed that family is more important than running...I had after all, traveled an insane amount this summer. I can qualify next year. Still a bummer as training was going well...

I felt good for the run and my heart rate was where it should be, over 90% of max HR.

In the end, I went in to it a little too fresh and with too much muscle mass. I was 10 pounds heavier than my last road race at Marathon distance, however my body fat was super low, at under 5% so it was all muscle bulk.

I'm OK with the results overall. I was seventh place, and ran a decent run for my current fitness. 2:54

I needed to start the season fresh as I have a stout fall schedule ahead and I have time to gain fitness and lose muscle mass.

I was impressed greatly with the organization and professionalism at the Mill Race Marathon. Downtown Columbus held a huge after-party with multiple bands and tons of fair booths and great food. This event is sure to become a huge success in years to come.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Presidential Range Photos / Completion of the 4000 footers.

Back in early summer I completed the New Hampshire 4000 footers, a list of 48 peaks in NH over 4000 feet elevation. Westerners may scoff at the relatively low elevation of these peaks but I assure you, they are magnificent. In NH, treeline tends to fall at 4000, so many of the peaks are very exposed as they range in height from 4003' to 6388'. The quality of subalpine terrain in the area is nearly intoxicating as one descends into spruce-fir forest and the smells of evergreen and moss enter your senses. Here are pics from the Presidential Range Traverse. I traversed the range as a grand gesture to finish the 4K's. The range is 20 miles with nearly 9000' elevation gain. I was attempting to also set the speed record on this day, but 3' of snow the week before in the northern range made the conditions winter conditions which are not conducive to an FKT attempt. Instead, I took my time and enjoyed the beauty of this range so dear to my heart.